I have two wonderful places to tell you about, that really couldn't be more different. Let's start with Dooky Chase Restaurant, located in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans and headed by chef Leah Chase (read an interview with her here). Dooky Chase specializes in Creole cooking and offers its own well-loved versions of city classics like gumbo, red beans and rice, and fried chicken. But one of its most special events is offering gumbo z'herb (pronounced "zairb") on Holy Thursday (known as Maundy Thursday to yankees). Gumbo z'herb is basically a stew of greens and every kind of meat imaginable. That's right--just because it's green don't mean it's vegetarian. It is, however, delicious and light, and so full of vitamin power that you just might find yourself invigorated enough to do some spring cleaning after a bowl of it. Holy Thursday at Dooky Chase is all about gumbo z'herb, fried chicken, and cornbread, and you must have a reservation if you'd like to eat it in their gorgeous dining room--some families arrive in packs of 12 or greater. The good news is that you can also call in a take-out order, which is what we did:
It's really, really green, and it takes a swampy photo, but trust me--if you're ever in New Orleans for Easter week, get to Treme and sample some of this incredible gumbo. And the fried chicken, which is crunchy and moist and pretty much out of this world.
Now, for Lea's Lunchroom, a special little place on Highway 71 in LeCompte (pronounced "Lacount"), just south of Alexandria. We're not in the habit of driving 3 hours to get a sandwich, but Paul's family is in Alexandria, and we try to stop there whenever we head north to visit. Paul grew up eating ham sandwiches at Lea's on a regular basis, and while they do offer plenty of hot lunch staples like meat loaf, chicken, and roast beef, I have to say this is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. I think it's the pickles.
Also, they're famous for pies:
They've gotten an awful lot of press over the years, including this article penned by Paul's aunt Sue Eakin, tacked to the wall in their gift shop:
But they're mostly famous for Mr. Lea himself: